by Gianna DiPaolo
Studying public relations in college can sometimes feel time-consuming, frustrating, and even borderline impossible, but the way you can stand out and learn more about the industry can be summed up in two concepts: PRSSA and internships.
By joining your school’s PRSSA club you can not only participate and learn in-depth public relations practices such as how to properly write a press release, client outreach, and special events, but you’re also exposed to its parent organization, PRSA Pittsburgh. Through this association, you have the opportunity to attend local agency tours, extensive networking opportunities, education, special events and more. In addition to joining PRSSA at your school, it is also imperative to hold internships as they teach you real-world experience and knowledge you might not have learned in the classroom.
If you’re interested in either PRSSA or an internship, below are points I’ve gained by personally participating in both during my college experience.
Our whole industry is built around networking. From the time we step foot in a PR classroom to attending an Off the Clock event, networking is always and will always be around us.
While you can go to these events once or reach out to contacts yourself, PRSSA and internships can facilitate that process and increase your odds of talking to peers and public relations professionals (and potentially even your future boss).
Going along with that, expanding your network gives you the chance to practice your people skills. For me, and I’m sure for a lot of other students, talking to professionals can be intimidating or scary, but by consistently attending PRSSA and PRSA events, sitting in on guest speakers, and taking the jump to email professionals yourself, it gets easier and you build confidence over time.
Portfolio building in the simplest terms is taking the white papers, social posts, creative briefs, and whatever else you work on throughout your college career and pasting them into your own online portfolio or website for future employers to see.
While all of the work you did throughout your college career is great, showcasing PRSSA and internship work along with that school work puts you ahead of the curve. Not only does this show your future employer more than the school standard, but it also shows passion, drive, and determination to go the extra mile in the field of public relations.
Yes – you have the necessary textbooks, the online articles, the LinkedIn Learning videos, and your professors while you’re in the classroom, however, you’re not fully exposed to the public relations industry until you take your first internship.
From my experience with internships, I’ve learned a lot about public relations in non-profit, small business, and agency settings which are all vastly different. Depending on the internship you take, you’re going to learn the ins and outs of the industry, the standards of the industry, and even how you perform in different sectors of the industry.
If there is one thing you can take from this article, it’s to join your school’s PRSSA club, make a killer resume, write a unique cover letter, and get on Indeed, Handshake, LinkedIn, or whatever job platform you prefer and start applying to internships. Although I know it sounds like a lot, and it can be, I promise it is worth it when you’re in your first interview and can be proud of all of the work you’ve accomplished.
If you’re a communications professional now entering the industry, consider joining PRSA Pittsburgh.